Renewed calls for congestion tax as Perth commuters desert train and bus networks
Perth commuters are continuing to desert the city’s train and bus networks, prompting fresh calls for a congestion tax to make car driving less attractive.
The latest public transport patronage figures show more than two million fewer journeys last year compared with 2016, down to just over 140 million.
Patronage in November and December was the worse in seven years. Train journeys dipped below 60 million for the first time in seven years, including a 6.4 per cent decline on the Midland line.
Even ferry patronage — which has surged since the opening of Elizabeth Quay in 2016 — is waning. In the second half of last year, the number of ferry journeys fell nearly 5 per cent or more than 16,100 journeys compared with the same period in 2016.
The Australian Institute of Transport Planning and Management’s WA president Peter Kartsidimas said the continuing decline in public transport patronage needed to be reversed quickly.
He said though the economic downturn had led to fewer city commuters, the fall in patronage was also the result of a lack of disincentives for car use.
Mr Kartsidimas said a congestion tax — which had been successfully adopted all over the world, in cities bigger and smaller than Perth — would act as a disincentive to drive.
It would increase the use of public transport and, with fewer cars on the road, reduce congestion.
“It would be a bold move by any government,” he said. “But we know it works.
“We have made car driving easier, quicker, more convenient and, in some cases, cheaper.
“We spend hundreds of millions of dollars to improve roads, to improve traffic lights.
“We make parking cheaper — it’s little wonder most of us feel it’s easier and more convenient to take the car.”
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said she was opposed to road tolls or congestion charges.
“Our priority is to draw people to public transport through good planning around stations, better connections to stations and an expanded network,” she said.
“Our target is to increase patronage on public transport.
“We have several projects under way to make it easier for people to access public transport through carpark upgrades, expansion of the cycling network and various road projects.
“Beyond 2018, the completion of Metronet infrastructure such as the Forrestfield-Airport Link, Thornlie-Cockburn Link, Yanchep line extension, Morley-Ellenbrook line and Byford extension will attract more passengers.
“The combination of improving economic conditions, end of shutdowns due to the Perth Stadium works, the opening of the stadium and an upcoming behavioural change advertising campaign will also help bring more people back to public transport.”
Curtin University’s transport expert Peter Newman said the falling patronage was a worrying trend that needed to be reversed.
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